Spirits are understandably high in Sounder Nation. And for good reason. After a season of starts and stops, the Sounders have won four of their last five, climbing into a top five playoff spot with a record attendance win over an uppity Timbers team, which needed to have their inferiority complex reinforced.
Now that we’ve reminded the Timbers who little brother is, the next statement game I’m looking forward to will occur when Martins, Johnson, and Dempsey appear on the field at the same time. Unfortunately due to Martins’ ankle injury and Johnson and Dempsey’s call up for national team duty, it looks like we’ll have to wait another two weeks until our September 13th match against Real Salt Lake to see the three in action together.
As far as trios go, they have the potential to be the Snap, Crackle, and Pop of cereal, the Larry, Curly, and Mo of comedy, the Earth, Wind, and Fire of disco. Ok, I’ll quit while I’m behind. But, seriously, the Emerald City is poised to launch the best triple threat attack in MLS history.
Coach Sigi has the wonderful challenge of sorting out his abundance of riches. Does he put Martins in the middle and Dempsey and Johnson on the flanks? Does he attempt to recreate Dempsey’s recent role with national team as a center attacking mid running beneath a lone striker? Or does he stick with a four-four-two? Putting Martins and Johnson up top, leaving Dempsey to either play underneath them as a center mid or out wide as a roaming winger?
In any formation, the three seem poised for success. Dempsey and Johnson have a longstanding friendship beginning with their time as roommates on the U20 national team. They’ve both played integral roles as scorers in the national team’s recent success.
With the Sounders, they should provide complementary abilities to create goals—Dempsey using deception and work ethic to find creases in the defense, while Johnson employs his "Demolition Man" athleticism to plow through opposition and put loose balls in the back of the net.
Meanwhile, Martins has demonstrated remarkable versatility since his arrival. With a team leading seven goals, he’s stepped up as a consistent finisher, but he’s also dropped into the midfield at times to help link possession into the final third. He can both attack the box with the instinct of a true number 9, and possess the ball with the technicality of a number 10. Whether he’s occupying the center backs as a lone striker or given the freedom to roam that comes with an attacking partner, he’ll meet the call.
It’s important to note that with Martins’ absence in Saturday’s match and Johnson and Dempsey’s ensuing departure to the national team, there will be just eight games left in the season with the three together.
While our potential is limitless, the time we have to reach it is not. A seamless attack requires an instinctive knowledge of your teammates’ runs in order to make the split-second decisions that leave defenders scrambling. Creating this chemistry normally takes an entire season, but I think the Sounders have the personnel to do it in time for a championship run. If everyone’s healthy, September 13th will be a good test.